Blended learning in academic education

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Blended learning in academic education

  • Key takeaway points

There are differences in the process and the objectives between on-line and on-site educational activities. The methods of each activity have particular advantages and limitations, which makes them most efficient when applied in combination. The CO-LAND consortium has now gathered three years of experience running the online seminars, which were concluded with on-site training (for a smaller group of participants) and it is now possible to draw some conclusions from this experience. The great advantage of an online course is that it can be accessible for a wide range and number of students and interested public. The knowledge can be spread across borders and also throughout different professional groups. The access and range are both very important since the development of approaches for coastal landscape planning involves a variety of cross-border situations as well as demands cross-disciplinary expertise. The online training, therefore, provides the possibility to meet all these conditions. There are, though, also limitations, which confront online course organisers, teachers and students. While on-line training can provide the opportunity for receiving expert knowledge through lectures, to gather and analyse site-specific information available on-line, and to gain experience in online workgroups, it is not possible to get the full range of information and personal experience-impression of the site. Also, some processes like stakeholder or community involvement are hard if not impossible to organise within the frame of online training. In addition, the organisation of a student group, working together and communicating online can be challenging in terms of self-organisation, difference in time-management routines and language barriers.

On-site workshops are an excellent opportunity for intensive and thorough work with the planning area, enabling students a deep contact with the site, stakeholders and community. Students develop proposals based not just on area analysis begun in the previous online training phases but also based on their impressions, observations, narratives of the locals and in-depth interviews and conversations with the stakeholders and local experts. This direct connection with the site is crucial for developing solutions in design and planning of a coastal area. The greatest limitation of an on-site workshop format is that it can be accessible only to a limited number of students. Also, the on-site seminar has a limited timeframe, therefore participants are bound to strict deadlines for both analysis and design proposals. Therefore the on-site workshop format is very intensive and demands a full-time involvement for both students and teachers.

Thus, based on the three-year experience of CO-LAND educational activities, including three online courses and four on-site workshops in different European coastal areas, we conclude that these activities work best on a combination of both on-line and on-site courses. Online courses are most suitable for spreading the knowledge and expertise through online educational activities for an almost unlimited number of listeners and a large number and wide range of participants. This format is optimal for general site analysis as well as the discussion of the problems in an international and interdisciplinary context. The on-site course is a format for careful and thorough site analysis and design, based on the direct connection with the area, stakeholders and community. Therefore, the on-site course should be a logical continuation of processes and results of an online course.